The U.S. suicide rate has jumped 35 percent in the past two decades, health officials reported recently.
From 1999 to 2018, the suicide rate rose from 10.5 to 14 per 100,000, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers found the rate of suicide rose by about 1 percent a year from 1999 to 2006, then increased to 2 percent a year from 2006 through 2018.
The report also shows that men are more likely to die by suicide than women, and people in rural areas are at greater risk than their urban counterparts.
While the suicide rate rose for both men and women, it soared 55 percent among females compared with a 28 percent climb among males. Still, men are nearly four times more likely to take their own lives, researchers reported. In 2018, the male suicide rate was nearly 23 per 100,000, and for females it was slightly more than 6 per 100,000.
The highest suicide rate among women was among those 45 to 64 years old. Among males, the rate was highest for those 75 and over.
Researchers believe some of these suicides are what have been called deaths of despair — including deaths due to drug and alcohol abuse.
Many of these deaths of despair occur in rural areas where there are fewer economic opportunities.
Poverty breeds hopelessness, loneliness and depression, all emotions that increase the risk for suicide, Singer said.
The report noted some good news in the last few years of the study period. “After years of increase, the suicide rates for several demographic groups, including females aged 45 and over and males aged 45 to 64, have stabilized,” researchers said.
But suicide rates continued to increase for males and females aged 10 to 44, and men 65 and over, she said.
In 2018, men and women in rural areas were more likely to die by suicide than city dwellers, the researchers found. Among males, for example, the rates ranged from 18 in cities to 31 in the most rural counties (per 100,000).
For the study, CDC researchers used data from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System.
The numbers beg the question, “Why?”
There’s no easy answer, researchers echoed.
There is concern that job losses and isolation related to current COVID-19 stay-at-home orders might result in a spike in suicides.
On the other hand, being in lockdown with family might also be protective, researchers said. It’s important to recognize signs of impending suicide.
For more on suicide, see the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.